Facebook Suspends 'Tens Of Thousands' Of Apps Over Data Concerns

Facebook said Friday it has suspended “tens of thousands” of apps as part of its investigation into potential privacy violations by developers.

The suspended apps were associated with 400 developers, the company said in a blog post. Facebook added that some apps were suspended because the developers didn't respond to requests for investigation, and that the suspensions don't necessarily mean that the apps "were posing a threat to people." 

Facebook's latest move came 18 months after news broke that President Trump's data consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, harvested information from up to 87 million of the social networking service's users.

Cambridge Analytica obtained the data from researcher Aleksandr Kogan, who gleaned the information in 2014 through the personality-quiz app "thisisyourdigitallife." Only 270,000 Facebook users downloaded Kogan's app, but he was able to gather data about many of those users' contacts.



At the time, Facebook allowed developers to glean information about users' friends, subject to their privacy settings. But Facebook's terms of service prohibited developers from sharing that information. (In April of 2015, Facebook stopped allowing developers to access data about users' friends.)

After news about Cambridge Analytica emerged, Facebook came under scrutiny for failing to either warn users, or aggressively enforce its policies prohibiting developers from sharing data.

The data transfers spurred investigations by the Federal Trade Commission as well as attorneys general in various states and the District of Columbia. Facebook recently agreed to pay a $5 billion FTC fine for allegedly violating a 2012 privacy settlement that prohibits the company from misrepresenting the extent to which it makes users' information available to third parties.

Facebook is also facing a class-action lawsuit by users who say the Cambridge Analytica data transfers.

News about the app suspensions surfaced in court filings unsealed Friday by a state court in Boston, according to The New York Times

The think tank Future of Privacy Forum called for the FTC to take action against the app developers.

“Some could still be holding on to consumer data or continuing to sell it,” Jules Polonetsky, chief executive of the organization, stated Friday. “If apps that misuse Facebook members’ data escape legal penalty, developers will get the message that there is no legal risk to improper data-sharing.”

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